How Robin Williams Saved The Worst Happy Days Episode In History

Robin Williams had a stunning amount of great roles in his long career, but even when he was in something not so great, he was usually the best part. And rather than slowly acquiring these attention-warranting abilities, Williams had them right at the beginning for his breakout guest spot on Happy Days. Some of the hit series’ cast got together and waxed happily about Williams unwittingly turning what could have been the sitcom’s worst episode into instantaneously fertile spinoff grounds.

Anson “Potsie” Williams, Marion “Mrs. C.” Ross, and Don “Ralph” Most all spoke with THR about their time with Robin Williams on the show. Anson Williams really drove it home that the Mork episode (which happened in Season 5) was “the worst script in the history of Happy Days,” and that it was basically inspired by show creator Garry Marshall’s son, who wanted to see an alien character show up. The actor they’d originally gotten to play Mork up and quit mere days before the episode was to go before a live audience. Before panic set in, somebody mentioned Robin Williams’ name.

Here’s how the former Potsie and Ralph Malph described Williams’ debut, which inspired the mass of writers to patch the script up on the spot, which was extremely rare.

Williams: “We watched Robin Williams improv, create this whole character in front of our eyes. ‘Nanu nanu,’ sitting on his head, the whole ball of wax. P.S. the next evening, it was one of the best shows in the history of television.”Most: “It really was. And there were all these ABC executives there because there was so much buzz, and…four days later, we found out he had his own show.”

That’s a pretty awesome experience for everyone involved. The episode, “My Favorite Orkan,” is one of the weirdest in Happy Days’ eleven-season run, even without Williams’ stellar performance involved. He reprised his role a season later, after Mork and Mindy had already become a smash. Despite both episodes happening after Happy Days literally jumped the shark – do people still use that phrase with assertion? – Mork added a dash of maniacal weirdness that didn’t often make its way into the gee-golly world of the Cunninghams.

Check out the entire interview below.

I hope someone apologized to Marion Ross for having her lovely story just faded out like that. In any case, R.I.P. Mork.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.